by Mihaela Vasile
For the second year in a row, as Corporate Engagement & Government Relations Manager for Monsanto in Romania, I successfully supported our team to help mentor more than 600 students from around the country. This was made possible by Monsanto’s partnership with the Junior Achievement (JA) Award — Europe’s largest provider of education programmes for entrepreneurship.
This partnership programme brings together teachers, pupils and companies with the goal of supporting younger generations with entrepreneurial skills. Already in the first year of the JA and Monsanto partnership, 1,095 students participated in various activities with support from 57 Monsanto experts in Eastern Europe.
This annual project started in October 2016 in Romania, when different high schools submitted their requests to join the JA programme. In partnership with the Monsanto fund, JA staff members prepared all the necessary documents, during the month of November, and began recruiting volunteers from Monsanto to work alongside students during the year. In this scholarship year, Monsanto secured eight volunteers from around the country to engage with over 600 recruited students.
The first student class visits started in December 2016. Activities included visits to Monsanto innovations centres, job shadowing and innovation camp sessions.
Over several months, students were organised into small teams, with regular face-to-face meetings, lasting five hours each. These groups were structured as ‘mini companies’ and mentored by Monsanto volunteers. Volunteers shared their experiences with students regularly to create realistic ‘pilot’ companies that could easily enter the market.
For me, as one of the volunteers on the project, it was an empowering opportunity to have open and friendly conversations with the students. And it was delightful to see passion, engagement and enthusiasm from such young people that were 15 and 16 years old.
They were like sponges, capturing each drop of knowledge from myself and the other volunteers. What I learned was that engagement by the volunteer teachers (in addition to the Monsanto volunteer staff) was also very important. Those teachers dedicated much of their precious time to impart their knowledge to make it easier for students to interpret the outside world.
I met some of those teachers and from them I understood how important it is to approach any job with passion and dedication — and finally to be proud of your students’ achievements.
Every minute spent with the students brought me more energy and enthusiasm. As part of their projects, they were happy to support poorer people in their communities and even recruited some of them into their mini-companies; offering local products or services to people.
These kinds of volunteer actions can only help develop the next generation. I and the rest of the volunteers at Monsanto are happy to be part of this growing professional knowledge-exchange experience.
“The way in which this programme bridges the gap between students, industry and farming to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs in agriculture is an initiative I fully support,” said Leticia Gonçalves, President of Monsanto Europe and the Middle East. “I hope that next year we recruit even more students and mentors, as well as listen to what the next generation wants to know and learn from us.”